Updated: Aug 18
I think no matter what the situation is, financials (well, basically the whole sphere around money) can be a tricky topic to talk about in relationships. While this doesn’t necessarily stem from a negative point, it’s just the fact that most people have different ideas of how money should be spent, what proper (if any) financial planning looks like, etc, along with the fact that some people are more impulsive while others are more prone to saving every penny.
And as you can guess, when your partner or spouse is an addict, the topic of money is even more difficult to deal with.
I recently took an enneagram test (say what you will about that), which concluded that I am a 6 on the results scale. And while I’m not sure entirely how accurate this test is for others, for me it was pretty spot on. Basically I have the tendency to overthink and stress about certain (okay, most) issues because I have the desire to feel safe and secure. This crosses over of course into finances, and I can freely admit that I can have a tendency to be a hyper-saver, tracking every purchase made and every dime spent.
And you can imagine that this quality of mine did not mesh well with an addict.
Even before I met James I was always one to save and not spend on anything fun or for myself. I considered anything recreational to be unnecessary, and therefore not ok. What if I needed that money in the future? What if some random, unforeseen, and expensive emergency happened and I was unprepared?
James on the other hand is quite spontaneous, even while sober. He just has a naturally impulsive and carefree mindset (that’s the “7” in him), more along the lines of, “I want it right now so I’ll figure things out if needed when it comes to that.” He has since shifted to a more responsible center, and I hope that I’m slowly doing the same, but it’s a very long and often tumultuous work in progress.
Back in the days of active addiction and countless tries from me where I attempted to figure out how best to help him, I made a wide variety of decisions about money that I realize now were, well, not that great.
From putting him as an authorized user on my credit card (you can guess how well that went), to giving him cash when I knew he had relapsed, I couldn't figure out how to actually do any good without completely kicking him to the curb and cutting him out of my life.
And even as we both started our recovery process years ago, our differing beliefs about money caused way too many arguments, and we sometimes had the result of talking in circles with no actual resolutions (like spending one too many Saturdays arguing and upsetting each other on the way to our daughter's gymnastics practice, which resulted in one too many silent stand-offs on uncomfortable bleacher seats, each of us thinking how much the other person needs to change their opinion.)
I'm happy to say, though, that since then we have tried to formulate a plan that works for each of us (with our completely opposite financial viewpoints), and eventually decided on a joint account with some conditions: we will have our joint account set for free-spending, bills, and savings, while still having the larger nest-egg hidden away for a rainy day.
While this solution has helped, it has not dissipated the topic or issues completely, since as, with anything, my natural characteristics are hard to overcome. There is, obviously, the part of it that was created as a result of his addiction (I remember that there had been so many times I thought things were “safe", when he had gotten a better job, we were getting out of debt, he was reliable with his paychecks and purchases, we were getting a safety net of savings, etc.. And it seemed like every time, the rug was pulled out from beneath me and I would feel as though I’d either have to start over completely or the nest egg would have to be used to cover new expenses because we had bills to pay and he was now out of a job.) And in the other part, I have my natural fears and beliefs that were created and carried forward by me alone, as a result of personal circumstances and the world as a whole.
But, just like with everything in life, it all comes back to me:
What am I going to do about it?
Just like in the past, I can blame how I am on some outside force that I either made up or gave away too much of my power to. I could say it's too difficult to change, too much work, and this is just how I am.
Or, as with my eventual life-changing decision to focus on myself instead of his addiction, I can choose now to do that inner work and figure out how to adapt and change how I view the world of finances. I can teach myself new ways of thinking and the way I feel about finances so that I can feel more secure, grateful, and positive about the future.
Because even though I learned what not to do for an addict regarding finances, I still have work to do on how I see money moving forward. And while it'll take time and effort, I know it'll be worth it.
So if you, like me, find yourself wondering how to handle finances and money with your addict spouse or partner, know you aren't alone. Been there, done that. But also know that you'll get there eventually, and you will find your own path and your own way of learning more about yourself and moving forward.
So come on, turn that focus inward and let's keep the change rolling.